By Kevin Frayer
After sitting out of computer chess for a few weeks I attempted to play in Infinity Chess’s Freestyle Tournament last weekend. I can not tell everyone how excited I was that a new chess server had come online, providing engine players an untainted place to play. (To be honest, I had become disillusioned with the wild west show being put on by Chessbase over at Playchess.) I had great hopes that Infinity Chess would be better.
The tournament started Friday November 14, the server had a dedicated room for Freestyle chess. By the time the tour was ready to start there were over 40 players in the room. (Or so we thought) The tournament director Arno Nickel (ciron) informed us that due to problems with the software, all parings would be done by hand. Finally the centaur only tournament was started.
My game came online and the time was set at one minute blitz, a cry arose from the chat window. (The time is wrong, the time is wrong) I did not play and lost on time. This game was rated and I lost Elo points from my centaur rating that were never restored. After a short intermission the TD advised us that he could not restart the tour with the correct times and that we should all go over to the engine room for further instructions.
After moving over to the engine room I noticed something strange. Only 17-18 players moved over to the new room. (Hmm) As it turned out at lest 20 Accounts seemed not to be real. I supposed that they must have been phantom accounts being projected by the server to make it appear the tournament was well attended. I hoped it was for appearances only and not for a more nefarious reason.
Arno Nickel now informed us he could not run the tournament in the traditional way. He would now give us the pairings over chat and we would need to challenge the player we were paired with. The games would have to be unrated so the server would allow the players to choose the colors the TD assigned. At this point I started getting a funny feeling about this tour.
I got white the first round and challenged my opponent at 45-10 and started my game. It was not long before there was trouble in the chat window. In the game (Hoshad) was playing there was a disconnect. I am not sure whether it was Hoshad or his opponent, however when both players were back on line it was not possible to continue the game. According to the TD a glitch in the software prevented the continuation of the game. (only about 9 moves had been made) Mr. Nickel advised the two players he had the game in front of him and he would walk them through the moves. He ask that the players challenge a new game with the same colors and he would read them the moves to the point the game had been disrupted. This was done, however after the final position was reached, Hoshad disputed the position. Claming a Bishop was on the wrong square. An accommodation could not be reached and Hoshad forfeited the game.
I was soundly defeated in my first game by a player who was unknown to me, but all went well. The parings for the second round were given out and I had black. My opponent however did not seem to be online. I was ask by the TD to please wait, to see if he would return. He did not, the TD rather than awarding me the game by forfeit, (as was the case in many matches in this tour) ask if I would play an alternate opponent. Not wishing to be disruptive and not wanting to claim a point I felt I did not earn, I agreed.
My second round game began, I was playing black. Well into the middle game my opponent fell behind in material and time. Apparently he just quit playing and allowed 10 min. to run off his clock. I won on time. I don’t know about everyone else but I consider it to be rude to just stop playing when you get behind in a game.
In the third round I came up against Alberto Gueci (Spaghettichess) one of the strongest engine chess players in the world. I should have known better than to get into a Sicilian Poison Pawn as black with him. However as always, it was a pleasure just be at the table with a player of Alberto’s caliber.
The real problem for me occurred in my fourth round game. I was paired with Cumnor Chess Club. (Kevin D. Plant) At move 24 Mr. Plant logged off. (The GUI said Logged Off) Unlike several other times over the past two days when I had seen players lose internet connection the GUI had always said Player has lost connection.
(4) Frayer - CumnorChessClub [C92]
4R freestyle, 15.11.2008
512MB, Heretic 2.2.ctg, Xeon 8way 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.c3 d6 9.h3 Bb7 10.d4 Re8 11.Nbd2 Bf8 12.a4 h6 13.Bc2 exd4 14.cxd4 Nb4 15.Bb1 c5 16.d5 Nd7 17.Ra3 f5 18.exf5 bxa4 19.Rxe8 Qxe8 20.Nh4 Bxd5 21.Rxa4 Ne5 22.Nf1 Qf7 23.Ra3 Qf6 24.Ne3 Line
The TD was immediately at my game, he had seen the same server notice of log off as I had. I was ask to wait for my opponent to come back on so the game could be continued. Within ten minutes Mr. Plant had indeed came back online. Under the supervision of the TD we tried several times to continue the game, but the server would not allow it.
At this point Mr. Nickel suggested that we start a new game at 35-10 time and he would walk us threw the moves to the point where the game was stopped. I said no. This looked to me as it was going much like the Hoshad game had ended up. The TD and I began discussing the problem in private chat. I explained to him I was reluctant to allow a reconstruction of the game because the possibility of a dispute arising over the game position. Also, I was several minutes ahead of my opponent in time on the clock when he left the game. Mr. Nickel then told me that he was having trouble understanding me because of the language barrier. I could see where this was going so I ask to be allowed to resign the game and the point be given to my opponent. Mr. Nickel said he would not allow this, so I withdrew from the Tournament.
This is the email I sent the tournament director before the start of the fifth round.
Please forgive me for retiring from your Freestyle Tournament today.
I believe you did everything possible to accommodate the situation that occurred. I no longer have an appetite for conflict in chess and did not wish to disrupt play for others.
I am also sorry, I was not able to articulate in chat what the problem was for me. I suppose I did not want to criticize you and felt I was being put in a position to have to claim a point I did not earn.
As you said “disconnects happen“. When they do the server and GUI should allow for continuing the game. If the game can not be continued or restarted with the exact time and board position, then the player who disconnected should be deemed the loser. This may seem harsh, however if disconnects are allowed and reconstruction of games disputed you will multiply your problems as a tour director. It will also be true that some disconnects will be intentional. When a player makes a blunder or a mouse slip he may just wish to disconnect and take his chances in disputing the board position.
I realize that this was just a test run for your Freestyle Tournaments and I am sure you will get the bugs worked out of the GUI. A big thanks to you and all of your team for providing a great new place to play chess.
Vincennes IN USA
Now let me make this very clear, my opponent in this game Cumnor Chess Club (Kevin D. Plant) did nothing wrong and in fact acted very honorably. He told me that he saw my point and ask that the game be given to me.
However, I did get the distinct impression the Arno Nickel was happy to see me go. His convenient lapse in understanding English as well as his not making a decision in a timely fashion convinced me of this. Later, after I saw the tournaments final results I realized there were many irregularities in the way the points where awarded. Just to give one example The final tour results have (Yurisolo) playing me in the eighth round, he wins with the black peaces. lol Perhaps some one played for me the same way some one played for my second round opponent.
I spent two weeks preparing for this tournament and had high hopes that Infinity Chess would be a good place to play. I can honestly say that my overall experience was extremely negative. This weekends Freestyle tournament was plagued by server problems, bad decisions from the tournament director and a high probability of collusion between players using secret accounts. I will not be participating in any activities on the Infinity Chess server as long as these problems continue.